Ground chat

My home is on the Oak Ridges Moraine.  I’m on the Pontypool wedge of the moraine, in the Kawartha watershed.  A moraine is where the glaciers leave the material they have scraped up.  It is ground up to some extent, varying from very fine (clay or silt) through sand and gravel, through to large boulders, often mixed together, though the fine stuff tends to sink. As Lake Ontario used to be bigger, we even have a sand dune right in front of the house.  When we first moved here, my son was aged 4 and had a huge sand box to play in.

The glaciers left their piles in heaps, so we have a lovely rolling countryside.

We built an extension on the house for my mother-in-law, when she got too old to live by herself.  The excavation gave me a good look at the ground layers.

Layers
Layers

The paler line in the middle is pure sand, the darker stuff at the bottom is gravel and the stuff on top is mixed sand/silt/gravel.  There are several gravel pits in the area, so I’ve had a chance to examine the geology fairly deep down.

It is a great privilege to live here, as further development is not allowed. We take it seriously and try to minimize our impact on the landscape. We have wonderfully clean well water which needs no treatment and we’d love to keep it that way. Sewage is via a septic tank, so it’s all a closed loop.

We are on the headwaters of the Pigeon River, which flows through our land, about 200m from the house and there is a small tributary that crosses under our driveway, and there is nothing upstream but the protected wetland that is the source of the river, so very clean water with lots of fish, insects, crayfish and other water denizens as well as the water’s edge wildflowers like marsh marigolds and water irises.

Pigeon River marigolds
Pigeon River marigolds

Our 13 acres are in a thin strip, about 80×700m (240×2200 ft).

Around the house, about 2 acres of the land was scraped almost bare when the forest was cleared, so on the surface it is either sand or gravel, with a thin to non-existent layer of sandy soil. That is my sort-of garden, of which about one acre is “lawn”, i.e. mixed grass, thyme, violets, wild strawberries,… and one acre cultivated, with a vegetable garden and ornamental (flowers, shrubs, small ponds).   I made the garden from just “lawn” when we first moved in, then I had a period of traveling for work when the quack grass completely swamped the cultivated plants, then I started pushing it back, then had another period of travel,….  But now I’m retired from paid work and am trying to rebuild the whole thing.

This is what my first attempt looked like. I hadn’t clued in to lasagna gardening so I dug up all the sod.  Not too hard as there was very little soil so no deep roots.

First attempt at garden
First attempt at garden

Keeping it weed-free has been my biggest problem.  I would have years of working from home, then years with a lot of travel so it would get away from me.  I did have help with the weed seeds, but not the underground rhizomes.

Wild turkeys eating weed seeds
Wild turkeys eating weed seeds

Notice the paths, made lasagna-style: layers of newspapers/cardboard to keep the weeds from coming up, then, instead of organic material, just sand from a hole in the ground.

Here’s one of the ponds:

Pond with Heron
Pond with Heron

The excavation provides sand and gravel for paths and features, and the rubber liner goes straight on the sand, so at least I’m saved the expense of an additional felt liner or lots of cardboard.

And yes, that’s a real blue heron.  It likes the fish and the frogs.  We have lots of wildlife, be it plants, animals and fungus (as well as the prokaryotes of course).  If you want to know more about all those, you can browse through this site, or follow it for updates.

Here are some of the deciduous trees.  They have made their own soil, which is a foot or more deep.  I confess, I did try to steal some, but it is too full of tough roots, so they guard it well.

Fall trees
Fall trees

The forest at the back is mostly shallow-rooted Eastern Red Cedar (botanically, these are really junipers) as that part of the land is very rocky, so not much soil and trees blown over with every big storm. These horizontal trunks were blown right over but managed to grow up again.

Cedars
Eastern Red Cedars by Pigeon River

There is a ridge north of Lake Ontario that rises (I’m guessing) about 30m.  Above that ridge, where we are, is a half-zone colder, so we are in Canadian plant hardiness zone 5a.  That poses another challenge.  The cold makes little difference but the growing season is a couple of weeks shorter than down by the lake.

Zone 5a
Zone 5a

If you liked this quick tour, there is lots more in the rest of the blog.  Since I finished up doing a lot of travel before and after retirement, it has been neglected but once winter sets in, I do have lots of pictures to add, of garden, wildlife and travel in UK,  so watch this space.